There are plenty of obstacles that lie in a world still marked with prejudice, Martin Luther King Jr. Day speaker Karen Dace said in Columbus.
“We are always hearing from people who volunteer that they marched with King,” Dace said Monday, directly quoting civil rights leader Frank Wu, whose statement finished with: “But nobody ever admits that they were against him — that they held the hoses, loosed the dogs and stood on the stairs of the courthouses forbidding his entrance.”
Dace, vice chancellor of diversity, equity and inclusion at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said she also felt it important to paint a less romanticized and more realistic picture of King, the civil rights leader and minister who was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.
“He was hated, his motives challenged, and even his right to speak for those long mistreated was questioned,” Dace told an audience of about 75 at the Columbus Learning Center.
She also was direct in saying that courage is what’s most needed for King’s dream of equality to flourish.
Courage for people to make right and often unpopular decisions that will subject them to anger.
Courage for people simply to speak about wrongs.
Dace edited the 2012 book, “Unlikely Allies in the Academy: Women of Color and White Women in Conversation,” highlighting challenges facing females.
“I have witnessed inequitable treatment,” some women have told her. “But I am only one person. My voice is literally so soft, and when I am nervous, my voice cracks. I’m afraid I might cry and no one will listen.”
Dace asked the audience to remember that King was only in his 20s with a young family when he began to speak publicly about injustice.
“Surely he had the same fears and doubts,” she said. “This same man explained that ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’”
Marwan Wafa, vice chancellor and dean of IUPUC, mentioned that the university’s work on the King holiday is to help people see differences as a opportunity to grow.
“We need to remember there is much to learn from those whose perspectives
are different from our own,” Wafa said.
Student Josann Sims said she related especially to Dace’s comments during a question-and-answer segment in which the speaker acknowledged that men sometimes can be partly responsible for women being held back from leadership and other positions.
Sims acknowledged that form of equality is rarely mentioned on King day celebrations.
“It was a different spin,” Sims said. “And there’s definitely not just a race issue involved. As a woman (in the workplace earlier), I regularly used to hear I was too qualified for jobs. What is too qualified?”